could the netflix model work for a social media platform?

Would you pay €9.99* per month for a non poisonous Facebook? The algorithms on these sites are not made for the user. They’re designed to get you to click and therefore naturally default to showing you anything that’ll get you fired up. Outrageousness, cuteness or the rarer cute outrageousness work best. I want to give a better company my money so I can become the customer. If you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.

*I wrote €5.99 at first but the clever buggers who price these products have slowly gotten us comfortable with sly price hikes. 

meaning tailspin

When life gets a little tougher (like it has for every person living in London that makes less than 40kpa) it’s natural that as a creative freelancer you’ll have to start thinking a little more strategically about where you can bring in money. If this has to happen fast it can send you into a bit of a ‘meaning’ tailspin. 

The focus will be on attaining, whether it be clients, paid invoices or money from Peter to pay Paul. All very short term. The immediate effect is you lose sight not only of how you make money (by doing things for others) and start thinking about how you can get people to do what you want. As a creative this is DEATH. Soon your gears will start grinding. Everything will come to a stop. 

On the face of it it seems like it makes sense. I need money so I need to get people to give me money but money is a symptom. If you’re a graphic designer for example, you don’t get money directly. You build a reputation and relationships. These lead to jobs which in turn you’re paid for. 

So that struggling graphic designer should really be focused on reputation and relationships. The only way to build on either of these is through helping others. 

Which is why being under financial stress is such a downward spiral. It takes immense strength to build positive relationships when you’re worried about paying the rent. Your brain is focused on what you want when all meaning and meaningful success comes through acts of service. 

The Steve Martin delusion 

Steve Martin said ‘Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration’.  Today was one those days. As I write the next episodes of Mellowing (our comedy web series) I am in delusion overdrive. 

The dream is to make something that does not survive on laughs alone. Not that we don’t love laughs. Quite the opposite- we do love laughs. We want mystery and twists and turns and all the rest. On top of that we will try to make it as funny as possible.

Right now though I don’t exactly feel capable of the task in hand. As with most things you attempt creatively I’ve never really done this before. I’ve talked about it a lot and I’ve watched pretty much every film from the genre. I just don’t know if I have the ability to create a story with that level of excitement or narrative drive.

But for some reason you just keep going. It’s a weird superpower to have. The ability to be hyper self critical whilst simultaneously utterly deluding yourself into thinking you’re an undiscovered genius. It’s not even as if those modes alternate, taking a day or so each. Both personalities are present constantly! 

dust

In 2015 I was living in Whitechapel, London. The rate of development going all around our block of flats was jaw dropping. There was more than one occasion when I’d be walking somewhere I’d walked many times before and I’d lose my way. The street would have changed. A huge building would have been demolished or built seemingly overnight and I wouldn’t recognise it.

When we moved in we had a 280 degree view of London. South, east and north. We’d go up on this huge roof that all 200 flats shared. No one would ever be up there. About a year in a building was built across the way and it took around 40 degrees of the view. Soon after another development took the whole of south London. 

Around the same time I was noticing I was getting hellos and making connections in the community around the house. For the first time in fourteen years of London. It scared me because I knew that like every apartment I’d had in London before I’d get priced out within 12-24 months and would have to move. It was like clockwork.

I always tried to not let the idea of gentrification effect me. I’ve seen years of Conservative governments with next to no regard for the less fortunate. I was just being realistic. They were never going to put poorer people ahead of a rich person. I was also part of the cause. One of many hipster idiots that will move to certain areas and pay too much rent once the coffee gets good.

This time it effected me in a new way. I couldn’t breathe. I’d wake up in the middle of the night coughing so painfully. It went on for months. I wasn’t sure what was causing it. I thought it was anxiety at first but that’s the awful thing about breathing. When you can’t breathe well you get anxious which in turn negatively effects your breathing.

Eventually i figured out it was being caused by pollution. The rate of development around my apartment was so extreme that the air was 90% brick. 

I never spoke to anyone or complained about the brick dust. I really should have started campaigning for cleaner air. I can’t have been the only one struggling. I regret hugely that I didn’t take any action. 

I remember that I could only go jogging if I wore a mask. I looked like Bane. Occasionally I’d have to stop mid run to rest. Not uncommon when you can’t breathe. The thing is you can’t really stop running when you’re sweating, dressed in all black and wearing a mask. If you do you really freak people out. 

outcome or output

One change I made in my life helps keeps me sane. It’s when I shifted from being outcome oriented to output oriented. My goals were all to do with who I could get to pick me or see me as special. It wasn’t built on anything of value. 

I was just climbing little ladders. After a while I’d realise I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I’d go back down that ladder and find another one. At best it was one big process of elimination. Every time I’d achieve a goal or get an opportunity I’d find myself feeling quite empty. 

I’m not sure when or why I changed my mind but a few years back I had moved to Berlin and there wasn’t really anything I could achieve here through playing the angles. I decided instead I’d just choose a few things I wanted to create (films, music, shows) and then assign a realistic but challenging number and I’d spend all year just trying to make that many. 

It helped. It shifted my thinking away from the idea of success or making the perfect thing and instead I focused on the process. 

where are all the inventors?

The tech world chases its tail. It’s mostly a false economy going through a prolonged gold rush. We use digital products each day but a microscopic fraction of those that are developed or attempted actually make it into human hands. 

The design process of prototyping, iteration and user testing is team based so a lot of interesting discovery gets missed. Naturally you’re trying to impress each other and your boss so you miss the little clues that lead to discovery. Most design teams are just attempting to re-do what successful companies have done before. Turning potential inventors and craftspeople into photocopy machines. 

If you’re not feeling some discomfort or fear you’re not pushing yourself. Inventors have to live in that uncomfortable space. The whole design process has taken the fear out of creating. Real inventors learn about the code, the chemicals, the electronics, wood, plastics, all of it - because deeper understanding leads to discovery of interesting links. The stuff other people not as deep into the problem would not have seen. 

i’m pretty sure I ran a cult when I was 9

I’m pretty sure I ran a cult when I was 9. It was called KAP5000. I think I added the 5000 to evoke future. The whole thing was based on a points system. Gain points and you’d move up the ranks. I rarely do anything without points attached. I love them points. I lost all respect for my followers after a while. One class mate/cult member called Jonathan earned so many points that I ran out of ranks to give him. In the end I just had to give him the cult.

off the peg opinions

Ever meet a friend for a chat and all of a sudden they have a brand new opinion? As they tell you about it they get louder and louder and seem more and more sure of themselves. You start to question whether you know this person at all. When were they ever this sure of anything? You’ve no idea how the conversation got here. You certainly didn’t tee them up. It all just got crowbarred in. Maybe this whole catch up friend date was set up so this person you thought you knew could half shout this already fully formed opinion at you? You didn’t even know they knew or cared about this subject. Let alone care THIS DAMN MUCH. You certainly didn’t expect them to research it all so thoroughly. Then you go home and you watch John Oliver too. 

collaboration versus dictatorship

I had a friend who worked as a focus puller on a television drama. On day one the director said he would ‘tell him when to pull focus’. How would he tell him? He would touch his shoulder. My talented, crazy capable, artist/craftsman friend had become a human button. This is not how you help people’s create their best work. The fact he was being paid a fair amount to be there did not make up for it. At all. Why would it? 

When making zero budget movies you get good at working in support of your collaborators rather than dictating to them. I often think of it in terms of a Venn diagram. I have a thing I’d like to make and my collaborators have theirs. We aren’t making those things though. We look for where the ideals crossover and make that. 

This approach creates possibility and can lead to exciting surprises. Everyone is given license to bring their own magic. That many empowered talented people are sure to have ideas that you would have missed out on. 

With financial backing, theoretically, you can tell people what to do. People are getting paid. It makes sense or at least most of us have agreed to pretend it does. 

True collaboration sparks something with people. Everyone feels empowered. Respected. There may be problems and mistakes but at least you won’t be surrounded by switched off people nowhere near approaching their greatest potential all doing just enough. 

head versus heart

The standard dance music production approach is similar to the accepted film making process. Art and feeling have to be crowbarred back in. They’re not always exactly made to feel welcome. 

It’s all been done so many times that people have conned themselves it to thinking they’ve found a way that ‘works’. That’s not art. It’s craft and that’s fun but unless you’re connecting to feeling there’s not going to be any heart. Your viewers and listeners spend enough time in their heads and are you looking to you for a way out. 

A useful practise while making music is to check back in with yourself and see whether you are operating from the head or the heart. I do this because I’ll drift to ‘what’s right’ and what people have told me is the correct way of working when I get scared. Which is usually when I am outside of my comfort zone. 

Feeling will come through in the way you play. Not your knowledge of the notes or who built your synth. That stuff is fun too and maybe it helps. All that matters to the listener is feeling. Nothing else. Except maybe what clothes you wear. People have always been very interested in that. 

Another funny feeling about following your heart (or instinct) is that it’s coming from a deeper place. Places that are less effected by the goings on above sea level. Your deeper self will remain true regardless of fashion or technology or what people say. This will leave a thread running through all of your work that comes from that place. 

I think this is why David Lynch’s films work even though the ideas and scenes can seem on their surface so disparate. Somewhere deep down all of these moments are connected in Lynch’s subconscious and that resonates as truthful to the audience. 

Zif’s law in relation to actor handsomeness

Brad Pitt is a great actor. He carries entire films time and again like it’s nothing. He can play subtlety like it’s an easy thing to do, make characters that should be absurd seem real (Inglorious Basterds) and is also capable of being hilarious which should be a scientific impossibility due to his extreme handsomeness. 

I went to a basketball academy. The one thing those guys couldn’t teach was height. So you’d get these huge types (6 foot 10 and above) turning up. Some of them had barely played before. Within six months they’d be pretty good. US colleges would fly over to see them.

My original theory was that our coaches were just more focused on these players and that’s why they got better faster. A possibility but that would have had a far smaller impact on their playing. They got better faster because it is extremely easy to pass the ball to a very tall long armed person. So much easier in fact that they would end up getting the ball so much more than anyone else.

If tall guy X played the same number of minutes on court as average height guy Y (average height on our team was 6 foot 3) he would have come in to contact with the ball maybe twice as much. Meaning he would get better maybe twice as fast. 

My theory is the same thing happened with Brad Pitt and acting. If looks we’re height BP would nineteen foot thirteen. He had the ball passed to him so many times so early that he benefited from Zif’s law. Eighty per cent of the wealth and opportunity goes to twenty per cent of the people. 

There was a clickbait ad to the bottom of an article I read once. It said something like ‘these actors didn’t go to drama school’. I looked through the slideshow. Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie etc etc. The key takeaway for budding actors was - be good looking. 

scammers

Narcissist sociopaths scam artist, especially the ones that don’t kill people, are my favourite type. Not to have in my life (or anywhere near me for that matter) but to read and watch endless documentaries about. 

My current favourites (in order) are that of the Elizabeth Holmes of the Theranos company, all the NXIVM twerps and fake German heiress, Anna Delvey. All terrible people who think they’re amazing. The more dynamic the mental gymnastics they require to justify their actions the better. 

I have begun to harbour guilt about watching any of the eight hundred thousand Netflix serial killer documentaries. They‘ve reached full pornification. The Ted Bundy Confession tapes documentary tipped the balance. Giving three, sometimes four, full seconds to the victims before going back to talking about how ‘very intelligent’ the killer was.

But scandals! Not one single person felt bad for any of the seven separate bros wearing checkered blue Polos in the Fyre Fest doc. That’s why I’m switching from serial killers sociopaths to scam artist sociopaths in 2019 and you should too. 

the third heat remains elusive

In the pilot of Tina Fey’s sitcom 30 Rock Liz Lemon is told by Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donnaghey that TGS (the show within the show) needs the ‘third heat’. It’s as an amazing joke about microwaves but it’s also true. It’s true of the show within the show and for making stuff in general. 

Right now we are a good way into the writing of the next instalment of our MELLOWING series And we’re are looking for that third kind of heat. For us the three heats are:-

  1. Story 

  2. Filmmaking 

  3. Presentation

Up until now we’ve been giving all our focus to achieving the first two. The next stage is about finding interesting ways to present the thing. 

The Gimlet media podcast, Homecoming (worth listening to for David Schwimmer’s performance alone) had an angle on this. It was a fantastic ten part fictional story about drug trials in the military. Perhaps realising that many people enjoy podcasts in a semi engaged fashion they added interviews with the creators and actors at the end of each episode. It really worked. The childish, lazy side of the brain knew it only had to fully focus for fifteen minutes on the story before it got rewarded with low engagement (although very interesting) blabber from the creators.

Inspired by that we are considering adding some behind the scenes elements and mini interviews to the end of each episode. We had a meta take on this at the end of episode one but didn’t stick with it. 

And that’s the next thing- episodes. We are writing the next 48 minutes of our story but that’s a weird length for a film. We will write our outline with 6 x 8 minute episodes. Adding 2-3 minutes of BTS footage or short interviews at the end. Maybe longer. 

Thirdly we want to stop making TV for Youtube and instead start to fully embrace the medium itself. That doesn’t mean we will be starting every episode with a vlog style ‘HEY GUYSSSS’ but it could very well mean ending with a short clip asking people to ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’. Hopefully by then we will have imagined up an interesting inversion of that that is still as effective.

Casey Neistat talks of Youtube being a two way medium. It’s a conversation in a lot of ways. Albeit heavily weighted to one side. That can be seen as an annoying distraction for an artist that just wants to do their thing but it could also could be interesting if approached with enough creativity. Experimenting with this will be fun. It has required a change of attitude through. 

These ideas alone are not ‘hot’ yet. It’s going to take some ingenuity to come up with a take on the presentation of this project before we find that. If we approach the ‘problem’ with the same passion we approach the writing and making of our films it could lead to interesting outcomes. 

does airBnB do prison cells?

There’s an old writers joke that I can only half remember - “I’ve got a deadline this Friday so my apartment is very clean”.

Since I started writing from home everyday my laundry has become military in its execution. I do the dishes seven times a day. I’m finding things to list on eBay constantly. All of these things are more attractive to me as soon as I come close to sitting down to write.

One of my fantasies is to have constant access to a box room with nothing in it other than a word processor (no internet access). The room has a timed lock. Aside from the computer it’s a prison cell. I’d be totally into the idea of prison as long as I could leave at 2pm each day.

I’d go in at 9am and the lock would not let me out until either 2pm or until I’d finished.... let’s sayyyyy.... ten pages of a screenplay. I’m looking into hot desks. What I really need is a panic room.

opinions

Bo Burnham released his comedy special ‘what’ at age 22. I’m coming to terms with the fact that there are young people who are better than me at things. It’s not been an easy.

Burnham seemed to have such fully formed opinions for such a young aged man. He is scathing about religion, pop music, racism and just about everything else he talks about. It’s intimidating because at 35 years old I no longer hold any strong opinions.

Every opinion I’ve ever held has eventually been proven wrong or not entirely right. I’ll be going about my days believing something and it’ll hit me that I’m an idiot know nothing and I have to drop yet another belief. I have very few left.

Alain De Botton has said (roughly) that if we never feel embarrassed by our past selves we are not achieving any self awareness. I’m now so embarrassed about even my most harmless of past beliefs that I daren’t hold any today. If I do I have to add a disclaimer that ‘I know nothing and I’m probably wrong and I’ll probably change my mind soon’. It really weakens any stance you might take in a debate.

Certain presidential narcissists are not hindered by this trait. Life itself is so unpredictable that people flock to those ignorant enough to be sure.

After setting myself the task of writing some blab for this blog everyday I’ve found that it’s quite hard to write opinion when you don’t hold any opinions.

During his H3 podcast interview Burnham (now approx 28/29) speaks about his embarrassment at the opinions he held during the making of ‘what’. He has mellowed and takes an each to their own view with regards to religion for example. The fear is that as an artist if you don’t believe anything you end up with nothing to say.

peace time

Kings of the past would get all weird in peace time. They wouldn’t not know what to do with themselves. They’d be liable to start new wars over the slightest of things.

The whole time you’re stressed all you want is to find space to breathe. You think of all the things you could do if you had that cabin in the woods and no one bothered you.

Recognising you are at peace takes a certain type of self knowledge. As soon as we got comfortable and happy in Berlin after two years of what felt like pure fire I started to feel strange. Like something was wrong. Peace time can feel quite alien and after years of constant stress. You are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

hipster banks

The bank, N26, has super cool monochrome stickers. Someone has been paid to go around and stick them in all the super cool places for stickers to be in Berlin. Toilets appear to be the number one place. I am not sure how the stickers feel about that. 

Maybe they feel that culture in its current state is dead. If banks are dispersing stickers than what’s left of counter culture? Is there one?

If adverts are primarily ironic and have coopted the humour of Tim and Eric and Adult Swim than where do people go next? It’s oppressive in a way. Not in a state sponsored sort of way, more in a stuck in the Death Star’s trash compactor sort of way.

stuff addiction

I am a terrible judge of what stuff I need. I am also an expert on justifying the purchasing of stuff I don’t need but I don’t hoard.

I pride myself on clear outs.  It doesn’t make up for all the stuff I pointlessly buy. I am just an idiot hamster man on my own endless wheel of purchasing and clearing out. 

A part of my stuff addiction was caused by slowly down how much I was DJing. I think my record collecting was a huge blob of spending that enveloped my stuff addiction by not allowing it to step out into the spotlight. 

Now I am not buying pure party bangers for seventeen different types of gig I buy cables and widgets I don’t need instead. Partly driven by Amazon which is as addictive as Instagram/crack. These websites are cleverer than us. 

Whatever a person is preaching it’s likely they became evangelical because they needed it. Any hippy preaching love probably had a lot hate at one time. Everyone is over compensating. I am becoming religious about minimalism. 

The same way we dreamt up aliens as grey bodied bulb heads we imagined AI to be like the terminator. It’s not. It’s here, its ruling over us and it doesn’t have a body. It just exists in algorithm form instead. Humans are now no longer the ruling race of Earth. Lines of code rule over us. That is why we all need minimalism.

I hope that last paragraph sounded evangelical enough. 

New stuff

I was record shopping and saw a record I’ve wanted for a while. And I didn’t buy it. Crazy. I was overcome with an idea. It’s time to start focusing on the future in my work and DJ sets and move on from my study of/obsession with the past.

When I first started I played was minimal techno. I was terrible and that stuff was easy to mix. Eventually I had to move on. I needed more smiles and joy in the music.

A friend told me last Saturday that no more Disco will ever be made. Until that point I had honestly never processed that fact. All of a sudden it just clicked that it’s time to start digging into what’s new and reengaging with that. Not just with DJing but with all types of art.

There is a comfort in the past. The quality control has already been done for you. You can just dig away at it at a leisurely pace and find great things. Now I want to point that energy towards to supporting current artists instead.

Your ‘content’ (bluurrrggghhh) strategy

You do not need to succumb to the imagined pressure to be a human IV drop of mini creation. If that doesn’t suit you as an artist or person then follow that instinct. These platforms won’t live forever, nothing ever does.

What you say no to is as important as what you say yes to and saying no to this potential piece of the puzzle is okay.

I feel like I have lost several years of personal development due to a mixture of time wasted on and confusion over how to approach social media an an artist, performer or whatever the hell I am or want to be.

That is time I cannot get back. I have had stretches of creating regular clips, videos and tweets etc but never any real momentum. Just spurts.

It doesn’t seem to suit me. I am much happier working on something for a while and getting it (not aiming for perfect) as good as I can get it with the resources available. I love that. That’s okay. Just because I don’t have a podcast or a daily vlog that runs alongside everything I do doesn’t make me a freakin’ loser. Just because I am not teaching others how to do the things I do doesn’t mean I am not doing the art life right in 2019.

No one really knows how to move through the world. Anyone telling you how to live is guessing too.